Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sign Language.

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! Lots to write about, but I'm still enjoying my break, so for now, a post about sign language.

I was contacted by a gal named Emily who works for Primrose schools a while ago and was asked if I would be willing to post an article about education on my blog. Considering I've been in school for 21 years straight, clearly education is something I highly value. I told her to send the article my way and I'd look it over before committing to posting it. After reading the first sentence, I knew I'd want to share.

Below is the article, after which you will find why it is so near and dear to my heart:

Sign Language and Early Childhood Education

The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience, is a skill that can take you far in our society today. Whether you learn a second language for job opportunity or just to become more diverse, it is a great unique ability.

This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

Signing Before They Can Speak

Research has shown that the early years of ages 2 to 5 is the best time to educate children in
different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.

While teaching a 2 year old a second language may seem a tad early or odd, it's actually been
shown that sign language is innate. Many indigenous peoples around the world, including
American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.

Boulder Daily Camera published an article in 2003 presenting strong evidence that babies as
young as six months old communicate with their hands:

"...by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

The Best Time To Start

The sooner the better for children to start. From the ages 2 to 5, the child's brain is most flexible, making it easier for them to learn not only one language, but two or three even. They are able to mimic the signs when learning sign language, and in most cases even create their own in the beginning (which is ok!)

Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to
communicate, it can also strengthen the parent child-bond. Signing minimizes frustration levels and helps parents to communicate with their children before they can even walk!

It Can Last A Lifetime

The benefits are endless. Incorporating sign language into a child's early education not only
optimizes learning potential for children but it helps them in the future as well.

Studies show that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. They have higher levels of skill in vocabulary, spelling and music as well.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Indiana child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

You may or may not know this, but my brother was born six weeks early and had several issues, including hearing impairment. Unfortunately, in 1985, state mandated hearing tests for all infants upon discharge was not required and my parents did not find out about his hearing loss until he was four (after four incredibly frustrating years and a baby who had colic for 9 months). Craig is 60% and 40% deaf in his ears and has worn hearing aids since he was four, but, by the grace of God, he doesn't have a speech impediment or developmental delays in any way.

While we are fortunate enough to not need sign language to communicate, my mother and I have both said several times we wish we had learned it as a family when he was younger, as a "just in case." I've tried teaching simple signs to the kids I take care of to make for easier communication and fully intend to teach my own children sign (as well as Spanish and French). Without reiterating the points in the article above, I'll end by saying I think teaching children to be multi-lingual is one of the best gifts we can give them.


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2 comments:

Life with Kaishon said...

What a great post. I had a friend that taught her baby sign language and I couldn't believe all the things she was able to communicate before she was even 1! : )

Helene said...

I can see why this post moved you! With all my kids being born early and receiving EI services, their therapist taught me how to sign with them and I'm telling you, it was a lifesaver. It saved me and them a lot of frustration. I remember friends thinking it was a waste of time....as they complained about not having a clue what their babies wanted while mine were signing "more milk please" at the age of 12 months.

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